Bunbury Festival Feature: Interview with POMEGRANATES
I was pretty sure I was going to love Pomegranates before I ever even heard them. A good deal of my time touring was spent in or around Ohio, or working with bands from that area, and so when I got connected with a group named Enlou, I got to know of the members, Curt, better than most of the others. Curt and I spent a lot of time talking about the music scene and the people that make it possible around the area and he spoke very highly of the guys in Pomegrantes, or Poms, as they’ve been affectionately dubbed by their friends and fans, for being talented musicians, heartwarming friends, and supportive and focused on improving the things around them. A few years passed and I finally saw them live at Fountain Square, along with Enlou. While their were a dozen bands that I could have compared their sound to, I was blown away by how passionate and in-touch they are with their fans, their instruments, each other and their music. It’s been over two years since I’ve seen them and a lot has changed since; They’ve released two more albums, One of Us, in late 2010, and Heaven, their most recent album which came out in June of this year. Enlou disbanded and Curt joined Pomegranates following the departure of Daniel Lyon. The band will be touring later this fall in support of their album but more importantly will be playing a hometown show at the Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati July 13th – 15th, alongisde WEEZER, JANE’S ADDICTION, DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE and more. TheBlueIndian.com crew and I were eager to chat with some of the artists performing and Poms instantly came to mind. Check it out, because tickets are still available, and we’ll see you there! Hope you enjoy my interview with singer/guitarist Issac Karns!
A lot has changed for you all since I’ve seen you last; Your lineup doesn’t look quite the same, you’ve got two new records under your belt and you’re calling a new label home to your releases. With any change, you face your fair sure of successes and losses. What has been the most beneficial thing to come from the past few year’s and what would you say has been your biggest challenge?
I would say the most beneficial thing to come from the past few years is just a better understanding of each other and our friendship and what we feel like we’re supposed to be doing as far as making music. I’ve come to a place of just really appreciating the other guys in the band. We’ve gone through a whole lot the past couple of years, really great and really terrible, disheartening things, but on the other end of that I’d say that I’m confident there isn’t anything that would compromise our friendship and care for one another. Which I think you only get with time. I would also say that we are more confident as a band and performers than we ever have been in the past, which I think is kind of a result of us being confident in each other.
One of the earliest memories I have of the band was what a closely-knit but welcoming community surrounds you all; I remember hearing from the guys in All The Day Holiday about pot-lucks you all would have, the work you all did in and around the city and the overall spiritual environment of being at your shows. You all seem to only stress the sense of community and friendship even more on this new record, but if you had to sum up the idea or message that Heaven conveys, what would you want people to get out of it?
I think spiritually sharing our lives with other people is something that’s always been important to us as people, and I still see everyone from ATDH at least semi-regularly. So I think that’s always been something on our radar and it kind of bleeds into the music portion I think. If there is one message that I think Heaven conveys, I would say having a sense of hope in life and that it’s actually the little things, like spending time with people you love, that matter the most and make the biggest impact.
Sorry for that long question. The new record was produced by Miguel Urbitztondo who’s worked with Cracker, Daniel Johnson, and Sparklehorse to name only a few. What prompted the move to work with him instead of TJ Lipple who worked on previous albums?
Well, we actually worked with Miguel on Everything is Alive and had always wanted to go back, and the opportunity presented itself and Sound of Music had just moved into a great new space. TJ still mastered the new record, so we technically still worked with him. TJ is one of the best guys around for sure. I don’t know if we have enough time in life or will ever have enough material to work with all the people we’d like to work with. But I think you reach a point where you know the outcome of certain variables and you want to stretch yourself by putting something into the equation that hasn’t been there before. Which we kind of did songwriting-wise as well. There were a few songs we only had sketches of when we went into the studio and we really had to push ourselves, which is something we’ve never really done before. So mixing things up a little bit with how we write songs and the production side of things was fun. If there is no risk of huge, epic failure, there probably isn’t much room for great success either and if you know how something is going to turn out there is kind of a ceiling on it. But we really all love everyone that had any sort of hand in Heaven and think they all did a wonderful job and from our perspective, everyone succeeded.
What was different about the writing and recording process behind Heaven? Given the addition of Curt and the loss of Dan Lyon, did you all sit down and write out all the songs together and have Curt learn them, or did he play a much larger role?
Curt joined when we had a few songs written. So it was kind of fun to have someone come in and say, well this is what we have what kind of part would YOU write? From our end we tried to have as little attachment to old parts and let Curt be free to be creative and write parts, which included songs from all our albums as he was learning how to play them. But then there are some parts that just work and so you kind of have to find the sweet spot between a blank slate and something totally done. So kind of like a coloring book hopefully. But the majority of the album he wrote with us. What’s been interesting is seeing how each person that has been the fourth member of the band has kind of transformed the songs, old and new, into something unique and left their own fingerprint on Pomegranates.
In the past year’s, you all have worked closely with Bill Donabedian and the Fountain Square/Mid Point crew. 2012 is the inaugural year for Bunbury, what are you all most excited about with being part of a brand new hometown festival?
It’s always great to see things moving forward in Cincinnati and I think there’s a lot that the city has to offer that it often doesn’t get credit for. So working with other people who care about the city you live in and wanting to see it become an even more thriving environment is a great feeling. Hopefully Bunbury continues to grow and carve out their own legacy in the tradition of Cincinnati and other music festivals around the country.
The Bunbury crew paid special attention to make sure there are a number of talented Ohio acts on the roster. Who will you all be seeing or would you suggest crowds check out?
I like all the Cincinnati bands that are playing, honestly and they’re all worth checking out. Jeremy Pinnell and the 55s and Archer’s Paradox are two newer groups that are really great. We also saw label-mates Ume play at SXSW for the first time this year and I’m looking forward to seeing them shred and destroy again.
Completely unrelated to the festival, where should out-of-towners make sure to visit before they leave Cincinatti?
People visiting Cincinnati should go to Devou Park in northern Kentucky or Bellevue Park in Cincinnati. Both have unbelievable views of the city that I frequent myself. Bellevue Park was also in a Nickleback video. The Cincinnati Museum Center is also a spectacular piece of architecture as well.
If there was one local band that you could add to the festival, who would it be?
Skyline or Gold Star?
Irrelevant question because Dixie Chili is better than both.
16 Candles or The Breakfast Club?
Honestly I’ve never seen either. I only watch a few movies a year, sorry.
Your favorite family recipe?
My cousins’ cookie recipes. They make a butterscotch chocolate crisp type bar that they give us dozens of whenever we’re in Toledo. Regrettably they don’t last more than a day or so.
If you could share a beer with any person, who would it be and what kind of beer?
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. We’ll see you on Sunday the 15th at 3:00pm on the AliveOne Stage.
Pomegranates – “Surfing The Human Heart”